Downsizing Cherokee Nation - 500 Years Of Politics

Tribute Plaque From the Cherokee People to Will Rogers

Cherokee Values, American Values
Cherokee Values, American Values | Source

Journalist and humorist Will Rogers contributed great amounts of laughter to the world and brought more recognition to Cherokee Nation with his nickname "Cherokee Kid." He was one-quarter Cherokee.

Will Rogers - Bacon, Beans, and Limousines

Ethnic Minorities - The Turmoil Increases

Native Americans have been featured in the news with increasing frequency since one group, the Crow Nation, adopted President Barack Obama as a member upon his election to POTUS in 2008.

Another nation - Lakota - seceded from the United States and proceeded to bill federal agencies for "squatting" on their native-owned lands. Increasing numbers of Native groups are renewing efforts to become US Federally Recognized Tribes or at least State Recognized Tribes, leading to some opposition and controversy.

Turmoil seems to be the signature of the decade for American Native Peoples in the 2011s, additional nations and small groups adding to the boiling pot of issues. Cherokee Nation has plenty of contribution in this movement.

The Cherokee National Holiday is an annual event held each Labor Day weekend in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

Map of the Cherokee and Other Native Removals

The Seminole Nation was only partially removed, but split into two groups - one Tribe and one Nation with equal status.
The Seminole Nation was only partially removed, but split into two groups - one Tribe and one Nation with equal status. | Source

Slaves, Freemen and Descendants

Cherokee Nation has joined the fray by deciding as a governing body that the descendants of the Black slaves owned by Cherokees in the post-Civil War era will be removed from tribal rolls and lose all memberships and benefits. This is rather a shocking move and totally in the control of the Cherokee leadership. These leaders voted to include Black slaves in the 18th Century and voted to exclude their descendants without appeal in the 21st Century. In fact, the vote to oust the Blacks was completed back in 2007 and was examined in 2011 for its propriety.

The vote was found to be proper and legal, but the reasons for the ouster are unclear. However, allegations of racism of Cherokees against Blacks have been leveled. Allegations of election tampering or a sort of vote-blocking have also been offered, since the ouster of the Black descendants from Cherokee Nation occurred just before final absentee votes for head Chief were to be received. This sounds rather like the controversy and legal action in the Florida votes for the 2004 Presidential Election.

The Black slaves were taken as Freedmen (no longer slaves after 1866) to Oklahoma along the same Trail of Tears march forced upon the Cherokee by the US Federal Government and the President of 1838. The combined peoples, Native and Black, marched through severe winter and the harshest blizzards in the century, on from the Carolinas into Oklahoma, losing many to exposure and hypothermia, starvation, over exertion, and illness.

Cherokee Nation, until 2011, held the rank of second-largest Native American Tribe or Nation. Without its black descendants, it may fall through the ranks.

DNA and Tribal History

American Red and Black: Stories of Afro-Native Identity

About the Video

American Red and Black: Stories of Afro-Native Identity is produced by Alicia Woods. Made in 2006 this film looks at six Afro-Native Americans from around America. They speak about their thoughts on complex issues of Native and African heritage, ethnic identity, and racism inside multicultural communities.

Cherokee Blood Ties

This is Mr. Frank Barnett, an African-American and part Cherokee in Scull Shoals, Georgia. He would still qualify for membership as a Cherokee today, given his DNA.
This is Mr. Frank Barnett, an African-American and part Cherokee in Scull Shoals, Georgia. He would still qualify for membership as a Cherokee today, given his DNA. | Source

Downsizing the Cherokee Nation

The ex-slaves, or Freedmen at the end of the American Civil War, that accompanied the Cherokee Nation to Oklahoma - and their descendants - were on the tribal books as official Cherokee citizens until the about 1980.

However, the Cherokees then amended their membership requirements to mandate direct descent from an ancestor listed in the Cherokee By Blood section of the official Dawes Rolls counting Native numbers (see link below). This action disallowed many of the Black descendants of the original Cherokee Freedmen who could not prove a blood tie-in.

The tribe stripped these former citizens of tribal voting rights and of their citizenship, while the controversial legal actions associated with this movement continued to 2007 and 2011. At the same time, harsher backlash began to occur in 2011 when HUD decided to deny Cherokee Nation funding after its Supreme Court tossed the Blacks from membership.

HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development) funds already on deposit to the tribe were frozen to the tune of a denied $33,000,000 withdrawal attempt in late summer 2011.

Additional lawsuits may be pressed, like the example in the link to the right.

The 1896 Dawes Commission Index listed 14,000 individuals in the Five Civilized Tribes of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole Nations. Blood quantums were not included.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cherokee houses in Georgia today.Ready for the Green Corn Dance in Cherokee NC.Flag of the Cherokee Nation
Cherokee houses in Georgia today.
Cherokee houses in Georgia today. | Source
Source
Ready for the Green Corn Dance in Cherokee NC.
Ready for the Green Corn Dance in Cherokee NC. | Source
Flag of the Cherokee Nation
Flag of the Cherokee Nation | Source

On and Off a Slave Ship

It is a shock to some Americans that the Cherokee Nation owned plantations in the American South before the Civil War and owned Black slaves to work on these farms. This is the surreal fact that comes as a surprise. Native North Americans in the Great Lakes Area also owned some farms and slaves as well.

"Whites" first captured male Native Americans to use a slaves, but could not control them. The Europeans then captured Native women, whom the Native men freed and returned to their villages. The weak and ill Black Africans from the slave ships were easier to control (reference: logs from the non-fiction 50 Days on Board a Slave-Vessel) - easy enough to control that both whites and Native Americans took ownership.

For many Native Americans, slavery was temporary custody of the captured until an amount of work as obtained from the captured or the person was adopted by the superior nation; but such was not always true, nor for all nations. The larger slavery movement among Native Americans was not limited to the South, since members of the Iroquois Confederation also owned slaves in what became New York State and nearby American Colonies.

This seems a sad commentary on the treatment of nationalities, one against another, in our reputed "melting pot" nation. Racial tensions indeed proved active in the 21st Century.

© 2011 Patty Inglish

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Comments 37 comments

Fiddleman profile image

Fiddleman 5 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

Tremendous hub and very informative.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

I think in part the prejudice stems from the fact that Cherokee was once slave owners with plantations and maybe some amount of wealth. The Blacks claim to be a part of this nation would be a hard pill to swallow considering that fact, yet, the Cherokee should never forget that had it not been for the support of the Freedmen they cause might have not been brought to purpose.

Another very enlightening journey into the lives and history of the Native Americans


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 5 years ago from Oklahoma City

The treatment of Native Americans by early white men was despicable, to say the least. I had no idea that Native Americans owned slaves pre-Civil War and feel badly for the black descendents who have been ousted from the Cherokee Nation.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

So it appears that whites are not the only racists who believe in so called racial purity. I didn't know Native Americans had slaves of any kind no matter tribe or race was mentioned. Ironic that Native Americans would try to deny descendants their birthrights while meanwhile somebody like Tiger Woods who is only a quarter African and three quarters Asian is always referred to as Black, not Asian. Even a tiny amount of African and you are referred to as Black.

How are you treated as a Mohawk among the Mohawks being that you are half European?


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

@FloraBreenRobison - I have been treated cordially by the Native groups and Pow Wows I have visited and found the peoples very friendly to non-natives as well as natives and part-natives.

In my own city in Central Ohio, some of the leadership feel that far too many whites claim Native blood where there is none, but still the local group is quite cordial. What is said behind closed doors, I don't know.

Annually for a decade, the kids in my martial arts studio gathered new clothing and nonperishable foods and even a turkey or two for the native food pantry here, because it was robbed several times. But it recovered. Now the group offers help of many kinds to anyone in the county, where many other non-profits limit help to a zipcode or two.

We will see what occurs in NY when I attempt to visit the Mohawk groups along the Canadian border.


VENZKHVAM profile image

VENZKHVAM 5 years ago from Milk way galaxy, trying to find a more adventurous place in another galaxy with my great followers

Hi Patty,

What happened to you? When I joined hub pages I remember me following you was the first thing I did. And also every half an hour you used to publish one new hub.But you had slowed down a bit But happy know still you are the most popular one.

Looking down the history is always gives you many unknown information.So as usual about the native Americans ,and the changes after Mr.Obama becasme the President. Added to that the white slaves not able to be controlled and naturally the black slaves becasme better to be managed and all this information is really new to me.

How do you get all this information dear?

You research And write or like it is your already known passion of topic. Any way I am a great fan of you.

I invite you to visit my three hubs and leave at least a single line of comments ,when you are free. I will feel happy and proud to have the opinion of successful hubbers like you.

Following you with pleasure.

voted up and useful

As I am


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Ha ha, V! I am glad to see you again. Actually, I am writing longer Hubs these days and therefore fewer - and getting much more traffic. But I have many more Hubs in waiting and the numbers will increase again.

In the past three weeks, I buried a best friend in another state and helped clean his house out and settle all his paperwork as well as helped his wife move, plus writing Hubs and doing other work...so you could say I was a little busy.

As for information - I travel, read, and ask the right questions :)


VENZKHVAM profile image

VENZKHVAM 5 years ago from Milk way galaxy, trying to find a more adventurous place in another galaxy with my great followers

I am waiting for your comments in my three hubs patty thanks for your fast response. so by your reply i presume you are a very socially active girl. right. wish you all the best for longer hubs.


JT Walters profile image

JT Walters 5 years ago from Florida

HI Ms. Inglish,

A very enlightening hub but I have to wonder if the Lakota would have felt the same. I have records dating back to before the civil war and the Lakota Tribe was very influential. I would also like it added here that Germans didn't abuse anyone nor did they believe in slavery atleast before World War II.

JT


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Very interesting, JT Walters -- Thanks for that information. We must look into Lakota general opinion about the fed govt and the Administration at this time. I am wondering what we will find...

The Germans are a remarkable people overall, imo. I think they were unfairly discriminated against in the Midwest after WWII - some of our schools stopped teaching German language as well from the 1940s until the 1970s.

Thanks again for commenting.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

V - One of my best friends died 300 miles away, I had to make mortuary arrangements and bury him and wait for an autopsy, and you call it 'socially active', while you demand attention for your Hubs without so much as a "Sorry for your loss." No.


Earth Angel 5 years ago

Dearest Patty, This is a beautiful Hub ~ and more amazing still with the huge loss recently of one of your best friends . . . I am so very sorry . . . My thoughts and prayers are with you and his wife and family . . . We are all connected . . . Blessings always, Earth Angel . . . P.S. I fully agree with your comment to V-


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Earth Angel! - It turns out that I had a dream that woke me up with a vision of my friend being released from his chronic pain/injuries and all the toxic medications - at the very time of his passing.

He is free now.

Thanks for the prayers and thoughts to his wife and family and me!


VENZKHVAM profile image

VENZKHVAM 5 years ago from Milk way galaxy, trying to find a more adventurous place in another galaxy with my great followers

Oh dear Patty, I was today on a marathon of visting various hubs and commenting as today I took holiday from office .I just read your first reply to my comments in the hub feed very casually and I assumed that you went for some friends house cleaning and shifting and that is why I had replied that since you are tired of the thing I will wait. But that too with out knowing your friends loss I said you are socially active as you went for helping a friend to shift.This is what happened.I m sure I justified my position. I am really sorry & please accept my sincere apologies for my careless mistake .I am not that cruel a person to not to know the value of a human loss.

Kindly do accept my sincere condolences.And may your friends soul rest in peace.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

V - I guess you missed the word "buried" in the comment -- But thanks now for your condolences! I appreciate that.


femmeflashpoint 5 years ago

Fascinating article and a huge amount of interesting and useful information, much of it disheartening, and moreso because, I am constantly trying to familiarize myself with my Cherokee heritage. I didn't grow up around it as many of my cousins did, and didn't make much effort to become more acquainted with it until recently. I'm saddened to realize that racism is still alive and well in too many places and amongst too many people.

I have folks I interract with that I do not respect, nor even have much affinity for, and they're pretty much people from all colors and cultures. It's not their color that causes the disrespect in me, it's totally their attitude. But, the first card that's always thrown on the table at me, is that my dislike of them has to do with my color versus theirs. That only leaves me feeling more offended and intensifies a dislike for them.

A racist rates right up there at the top of the list of the sorts of people I'd automatically have an issue with.

Thank you for sharing the information. I'll work on my attitude, and continue making attempts to improve it, and I'll pray that the tribes do the same!

Also, sorry to read of the loss of your friend. :(

Thank you for sharing the information.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Another great article. Flag up.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

@femme... and dallas... My friend was about 1/4 Cherokee and he was the only one with such heritage I know except for a lovely and strong woman working at a local supermarket.

I wonder why the nation voted to expel the Blacks and if it was more than a cost-saving measure. I also wonder how man of the Freedmen died on the way to Oklahoma in the blizzards.

I have pale white skin but native features that seem more pronounced when I wear my hair down - some people stare at me. Haha - ghost Indian. Like you femme, attitudes are also what put me off, not color. I love color.


Daniella Lopez profile image

Daniella Lopez 5 years ago from Arkansas

Great and informative article! Being of Cherokee heritage myself, I find it disgraceful what they have done to our tribe members. My Cherokee grandparents taught me that the Cherokee people are an loving and accepting tribe. This move by the tribe shows them in a different light however.


JT Walters profile image

JT Walters 5 years ago from Florida

Hi Ms. Inglish,

No thank you for all your research and your very informative hubs.

JT


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Hello Patty. You will never know how much pleasure you give me with all these information. Thank you for your splendid hub. I am sorry toread about you loss of your friend. It is always sad.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Patty, This is a wonderful hub...so comprehensive. I happen to be of Cherokee descent and am always happy when someone posts interesting and honest facts about my ancestors.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

I am glad to know that more of my acquaintances are Cherokee descent. Let us keep an eye on this situation and see what happens next. I'd like to know the reasons onboth sides of the issue.

Thanks for the kind comments, Daniella Lopez, JT Walters, Hello hello, and alekhouse.


WesternHistory profile image

WesternHistory 5 years ago from California

This is a very interesting hub. The history of native Americans has always been a fascinating topic in as much as the many likeness between tribes and the varied ways the U.S. Government dealt with them. Another interesting thing is that although the tribes dealt with American's centuries ago, there are many unfinished issues as your hub demonstrates.


somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

Interesting article, I'd be interested to know if you have heard what the native Americans think of 2012 and pole shifts (the Hopi legends), or if the subject even has come up.

I surprised so many Americans were unaware that many tribes used captives as slaves in the beginning, but later allowed some form of tribal membership.

I have no problem with a particular race of humans trying to keep their lineage pure, even though I'm a mutt.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for the new comments!

I think the 2012 pole shifting stories are moot, because Asians have spoken of regular North-South pole switching for 1000s of years longer than our Native Americans have spoken of it. No one pays attention to the Asians about it and we should. The pheomenon is used in the story that goes with the Yin-Yang symbol, which I have no use for by itself. The interesting story is that Blue Dragon holds the Earth in place from flying away, while White Tiger underneath supports it and keeps it from falling away. Every so many (500)years, the animals switch places to learn more about the other side. It's a story to explain magnetic poles, which do shift, but not regularly at precisely 500-year cycles.

Forget 2012. The poles have shifted more than once already. Cheers!


Jay S profile image

Jay S 5 years ago from Central New York

One thing that has always bothered me about the U.S. government is it's ability to deny any actions it makes. We entered WWII to stop Hitler from persecuting Jews but our government permitted the same kind of persecution of Native Americans. I dare anyone to prove that there is a difference between a concentration camp and a reservation. People were abused, neglected, and killed on a daily basis in both places. Hitler stole the lives of the people he attacked and the U.S. gov't did the same to thousands of Native Americans. Then when our gov't couldn't stop all the natives from living the life that they chose they put a price on buffalo hides and told hunters to kill as many as they could taking away not only the Natives biggest food source, but also the hides used for clothing and shelter.

When you read this, please understand that I love this country but it's government for 400 years may well be the most corrupt in history.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Hi Jay -

I question the motives of the slew of "stay on the reservation" television public service announcements directed at Native Americans. The message seems to be an attempt at controlling and keeping a people in one place. I don't like it. It's different on the North Dakota reservation - Bakken Oil field - that has huge amounts of oil and jobs available, and others have a lot a businesses emerging, but many reservations have few jobs.

On the NY-Canada border, a concerted effort since the 1990s has sought to drive the people of the reserve across the border to Canada, especially the traditional group, as opposed to the federally recognized group. Politics.


SanXuary 4 years ago

If you our Cherokee blood then it should not matter what ties you have. If you our not then the argument is why should the Cherokees accept anyone. Prior to being marched away they actually were on the road towards inclusion within the General population. In prejudice and greed the Federal Government decided not to include them and forced them into the status they live today. Why should they include anyone today who is not Cherokee? If they are Cherokee and this is racism then I am appalled and sad that I am Cherokee. Things change through time and outward appearances do not change blood. I am curious to know if others were forced onto Reservations as well who were not Cherokee and if this is part of the problem? If it is a Cherokee Reservation directed by the Government in the past and non-Cherokee are living their as well then I can understand the issue to some extent. Thanks to our incredible media I am unaware of what the facts our. Is this a racial issue or an attempt to claim sovereignty on the reservation that they were forced to live on? Is their a fair way to fight this issue in the case of double jeopardy if this is the issue? Where two groups of people have been forced onto a reservation that was reserved for one group? To a great extent these are issues created by past prejudice and the end result of any racism is a poor way to fight this issue.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Ah very interesting....I am part Seminole....my grandmother was 100%. I've researched a lot about these years. The treatment of the Indians was hideous.

The Seminoles still have not signed the peace treaty! WTG tribe!

I was sorry to hear of the loss of your friend...that's rough and my belated condolences.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

It is good to know someone of Seminole heritage - you are the first I have met outside a pow wow.

Native Americans in South Dakota rescinded their treaties recently. I sense a showdown in America.


lisa 4 years ago

I'm so fed up with being descriminated. Against fir me being. Cherokee ..I'm proud to be native american


gconeyhiden profile image

gconeyhiden 4 years ago from Brooklyn, N.Y.C. U.S.A

Interesting hub patty. seems like many people think human slavery started in Africa, not true. Slavery is a very old custom. To me it's understandable why some native American tribes are becoming defensive in their attitudes. Politics is a nasty business and they have been getting screwed. They very well may have been forced into this nasty business to retain a legal foothold under U.S. law.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for the information, gconeyhiden. Politics is indeed nasty many times.


Southernmapart 4 years ago

Until I read this Hub, I have not known that the African-American slaves of the Cherokee were removed with the Cherokee to Oklahoma.

A few researchers around the Carolina mountains declare that, before the War Between the States broke out, there were maroons of black males in the mountains. I do not believe there is sufficient local evidence to support such an idea.

It is difficult to determine actual history of these times because so much information has either been misrepresented, or destroyed.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I agree that it is difficult to dig out what actually occurred in the Carolina mountains, especially since I think some oral histories were lost completely. Thank you for posting, Southernmapart.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 2 years ago from North America Author

Additional progress in the controversy May 6 and July 15, 2014

1] Washington Post. By Courtland Milloy: The Cherokees: One nation, divisible? Judge will decide if black members can be expelled.

http:// tinyurl DOT com/nl4mlep

"Cherokee Nation v. Raymond Nash"

"The outcome hinges on how U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan interprets an 1866 treaty between the Cherokee Nation and the United States. The agreement, in essence, is an Indian version of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1866, guaranteeing the rights and protection of freed slaves.

The Cherokee Nation, which was actively involved in the slave trade, later signed a treaty stating: “All freedmen who have been liberated by voluntary act of their former owners or by law, as well as all free colored persons . . . and their descendants, shall have all the rights of native Cherokees."

"The move to expel citizens who derive their status from former slaves coincides with an increased flow of money into the Cherokee Nation — including billions of dollars from U.S.-sanctioned casinos and hundreds of millions more in federal appropriations for housing, health and employment services."

NOTE: Another opinion from the same article:

“This is mostly about white people trying to be Indian because of the money at stake,” said Sam Ford, a descendant of a Cherokee freedman and also a reporter for WJLA (Channel 7).

2] Dan Littlefield: Freedmen deserve Cherokee Nation citizenship.

www DOT cherokeephoenix DOT org/Article/Index/1760

www DOT indianz DOT com/News/2014/014397.asp

Dan Littlefield: Director, University of Arkansas /Little Rock's Sequoyah National Research Center --

"The Freedmen's rights in the Cherokee Nation were guaranteed by the Treaty of 1866, which the CN signed and carried out. It did so admirably, considering the racial climate in the adjoining states at the time.

Following the Treaty in 1866, the Cherokee National Council amended the constitution to guarantee the freedmen full rights as citizens. The Nation's own citizenship court and Supreme Court subsequently admitted large numbers of additional Freedmen applicants to citizenship. These were primarily Freedmen who had not returned to the CN within the six-month limit set by the treaty. A good example was the Supreme Court's action on June 21, 1871, which "admitted to Cherokee Rights and Citizenship" 34 Cherokee Freedman households. Without doubt, the court realized the implications of its action: not only those admitted but their hundreds of descendants would be future citizens of the Nation. This was only one of a number of such decisions.

In taking its censuses, the CN listed citizens according to the basis for their rights to citizenship: by blood or by adoption. In the latter category, they listed four groups: Shawnees, Delawares, Freedmen, and intermarried whites. No matter what category a person was in, he or she was still a citizen of the CN. "

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